The Bock’s Office: Summer good, summer not so good |

The Bock’s Office: Summer good, summer not so good

The De La Salle High School Spartans take a knee for a pre-game prayer in "When the Game Stands Tall." The movie is about a high school football team with a 151-game winning streak that must find a way to regain its standing after a loss.

When you go to the movies as often as I do, sometimes the shows you see during the summer are ones you wish you hadn't or are purely recycled, while there are others you regret missing.

If you haven't gotten your fill of the season's offerings, here's a cross-section of films I haven't had a chance to weigh in on that you may want to catch or avoid at all costs.

"Chef" — A scathing review of his work sends Los Angeles chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) into a personal and professional meltdown, made worse by his outbursts on social media. When he accompanies his ex-wife and son (Sofia Vergara, Emjay Anthony) on a trip to Florida to get his head straight, he shifts gears by buying a food truck and embarking on a cross-country trip.

Favreau returns to the "less is more" mentality that made him noteworthy as a writer and director in this agreeable feature, which nicely captures the personality of the modern foodie. The story is heartfelt but unremarkable as Carl bonds with his kid, but it's probably best not to complain too much to a guy who carries a set of knives.

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" — With the world overrun by a cadre of deadly robots known as Sentinels, the X-Men have only one option to prevent the extermination of mutants and humans by sending Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) backward in time to the 1970s to stop a chain reaction that will result in the creation of these machines.

All the "X-Men" installments have been leading to this merging of the original movies and the many prequels that followed them, with Bryan Singer back in the director's chair for the first time since "X2." The heaviest treatment yet of these superheroes — and the biggest cast — leaves it tied with the more freewheeling "Guardians of the Galaxy" as the best comic book production of the summer, its dominance prevented mostly by some pretty big plot holes.

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"A Million Ways to Die in the West" — A spineless sheep rancher (Seth MacFarlane) in 1880s Arizona can't catch a break in the merciless Old West, with the love of his life (Amanda Seyfried) deserting him and leaving his existence more miserable than ever. A friendship with a female gunslinger (Charlize Theron) boosts his spirits, but the threat of her outlaw husband (Liam Neeson) makes things worse still.

MacFarlane keeps the same tone he's used with "Ted" and "Family Guy," but his vision of a Western comedy with a displaced hero isn't all that clever, even with some OK cameos. Once you get past the string of somewhat amusing grisly deaths, the rest is mostly a nerd in a cowboy hat whining about his own shortcomings.


"Deliver Us from Evil" — New York City police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) has seen some nasty things on the beat, but he may be in over his head when he comes across a series of incidents that are interrelated, unexplainable and possibly supernatural. Consulting a priest (Edgar Ramirez) is his first step, but Sarchie's cynicism could result in a terrible outcome.

Supposedly based on the experiences of the real Sarchie, this combination of suspenseful cop thriller and edge-of-your-seat horror skims the surface of religious faith and demonic possession without ever getting too serious about either. Uninspired scares are the most the audience gets, but if it works for you …

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" — Reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) is on the trail of a big story regarding gang activity in the Big Apple. However, something even bigger has just presented itself to her in the form of four, 6-foot-tall talking turtles skilled in martial arts and determined to save the city at any cost.

If you heard the '80s cartoon theme song just once, you know the whole deal by now, as a new generation of Turtleheads get the characters repackaged for them. And only them, since the kids who grew up with "TMNT" action figures and video games back in the day will have no interest in a homogenized origin story, the goofier sense of humor or the title reptiles' highly digitized appearance.

It is what it is, and let's all be glad producer Michael Bay's idea of alien turtles didn't happen. Ruin one franchise at a time, all right, "Transformers" boy?

"Get On Up" — Coming up from a harsh childhood in Georgia, James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) becomes a musical sensation in the 1950s and beyond, introducing a sound and voice the world has never seen before. But even when he's on top of the world and on top of the charts, his stage bravado can't always mask his troubled life.

After portraying Jackie Robinson in "42," Boseman has another great showing as the Godfather of Soul, but the biopic about the creator of "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" is a mixed bag to be sure.

"The Help" director Tate Taylor is all over the place in his timeline of Brown's life, clumsily overplaying some attributes of the subject's personality while giving little insight into the charisma that built and destroyed relationships for the R&B legend. Plus, does Taylor have Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer on retainer even when he doesn't need them?

"Let's Be Cops" — Best friends Justin and Ryan (Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson) have little going on in their lives — until they don some very realistic police outfits for a costume party. Suddenly, they are treated with respect, awe and even admiration for the first time in many years.

So why should it end? Their plan to keep up the charade as long as they can becomes tricky when they get on the bad side of a local mobster (James D'Arcy) who thinks they're the real deal and, therefore, a threat.

Wayans and Johnson play almost the exact same characters as they do on TV's "New Girl," which isn't a bad thing in itself and is less objectionable than the mockery the movie makes of law enforcement. Still, if you're going to have an idea like this, at least be willing to push the boundaries beyond someone getting a faceful of naked vagrant genitals.

"When the Game Stands Tall" — At the end of the 2003 season, the Spartans of California's De La Salle High School have 12 consecutive state championships to their name and a 151-game winning streak, outdoing every team at every level of football. When they're hit with their first loss in a long time as a new season begins, it's up to coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) to guide them to their former glory regardless of the numbers involved.

In many ways, this true story takes its cues from every other saga of gridiron grit and greatness, from "Knute Rockne, All American" to "Varsity Blues," sometimes admonishing the wrong-headed approaches to the game and other times accidentally praising such aspects, though here we have a coach who will willingly admit "it's just high school football."

Some dialogue is just terrible — Ladouceur's wife actually tells her husband their wide receiver son doesn't need a coach, he needs a father — but the spirit of this sports tale comes from the audible called by its own leader, who cares nothing about being perfect as long as his boys make "a perfect effort" on the field.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

2014 summer movies

“Chef,” 3 out of 4 stars

“X-Men: Days of Future Past,” 3.5 out of 4 stars

“A Million Ways to Die in the West,” 2 out of 4 stars

“Deliver Us from Evil,” 2 out of 4 stars

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” 2 out of 4 stars

“Get On Up,” 2.5 out of 4 stars

If you go

“Let’s Be Cops,” rated R

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

Running time: 104 minutes

Starring: Damon Wayans, Jr, Jake Johnson, Nina Dobrev and Rob Riggle

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

If you go

“When the Game Stands Tall,” rated PG

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 115 minutes

Starring: Jim Caviezel, Laura Dern, Michael Chiklis and Alexander Ludwig

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.